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Timeless Tribes: Merfolk

March 20, 2011

Over the years, there have been many builds on fish decks, the name fish itself is kind of an allegory on based on series of decks that were played in the extended format. These decks were usually Blue, with a heavy aggro (usually merfolk as well) and the countermagic element. Over the years many decks have kind of taken the fish moniker and shaped it as their own. However it wasn’t until the break out deck designed by @Tomoharu Saito for Grand Prix Columbus in 2010 that really made everyone look at Merfolk again as a highly competitive tier 1 deck.

Saito’s breakthrough deck build of Fish changed legacy as well, however it would have a less subtle impact on the legacy world as what would happen a few months later when m11 was released and set upon all legacy players the Survival of the Fittest surge.

Merfolk was still a highly competitive deck lost within 70% field of Survival decks. It’s power came from it’s huge disruption package while taking advantage of of its lord count. with 3 (12) lords in the main deck, 4 manlands that count as Merfolk, Merfolk can quickly run over their opponent, laying waste to their lands, controlling when they could play spells with standstill, it brought permission decks to a new level. of course the decks themselves could bypass their own standstills with the use of one of the best cards in legacy.

Aether Vial relevance to legacy’s countermagic tactics or by passing the land hatred has many implications, and here inlays Aether Vial’s power to circumvent such tactics. But instead of me going on now, I will show you fish:

Here is Saito’s GP-winning deck

4 Underground Sea
4 Mutavault
4 Wasteland
2 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Flooded Strand
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Polluted Delta

4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Coralhelm Commander
4 Merrow Reejerey

4 Aether Vial
4 Standstill
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
3 Spell Pierce

Sideboard
4 Engineered Plague
1 Perish
3 Submerge
3 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Nature’s Ruin

Merfolk is the very definition of an aggro-control hybrid. Ideally, you will be landing a threat each turn while having disruption available on the opponent’s turn. Aether Vial helps this tremendously as do your “free” spells. As an aggro-control player, you must quickly surmise what your opponent is playing so you can determine your own role.

For example, you want to land creatures every turn against Tempo Threshold which is unlikely to have a sweeper. Your counters and bounce are mostly for his creatures and post board hate. You are playing a modified control role since you have inevitability.

Against ANT, you are playing a modified control role as well, but your counters, Stifles, and post board hate are the keys here. Practice this one plenty, as the proper defence for you is not obvious in every game. You must learn to be fluid with your responses depending on the situation.

Versus Landstill your counters are for protecting the Vial and preventing his big plays. You want the game to end quickly, so you are aggro here.

Versus something like Zoo and Goyfsligh, you are mostly playing control. You want to field enough lords to keep your guys buffed to 4/4 or above and your counters are to prevent his removal.

Key Strategies:
1. Aether Vial makes the game plan come together. If you open with turn 1 Island, Aether Vial – holding Daze, Wasteland, Standstill, Stifle, Silvergill or some combination of any of these, you are likely to be ahead on board development and card advantage quickly. That is where you want to be.

2. Turns 1 and 2 are where you are in charge. If you have another creature to cast next turn, don’t be afraid to sacrifice your turn 1 Cursecatcher for something like CounterThresh’s turn 1 Brainstorm. You have to retard his development this way to win.

3. Submerge in response to an opponent’s fetchland is about as good a removal spell as you could ask for. Remember that you need not target green creatures. And be sure not to Wasteland his only Forest before your spell.

4. If your opponent has Force of Will in his deck, play Standstill against an empty board with near impunity. Your opponent does not know that you are not holding a Mutavault. It’s good bluff that isn’t necessarily a bluff.

5. Keep in mind that Coralhelm Commander can easily be much bigger than any other Merfolk. And he flies. That is going to come in handy since most dedicated hate strategies your opponents will employ will be for dealing with swarms while Commanders can be effective on their own.

Well that is all for now, tomorrow I talk about the mean green machine, Elves!!

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